It's not a huge surprise after a Reddit user spotted an advertisement being painted ahead of today's announcement, but now it's official: hearthstone's next expansion will be called Whispers of the Old Gods.

The new expansion will focus on what lead designer Ben Brode calls "the real bad guys" of the WarCraft universe - gods who have been chained beneath the world and influence the world through whispers. They've only appeared briefly in World of WarCraft, but they've had an outsized influence on important events like the creation of Deathwing and the Nerubians, as well as the enslavement of Ragnaros.

As you might expect, the Old Gods have a distinctly Lovecraftian vibe to them. In fact, the first god to be revealed for Whispers of the Old God is C'thun: An eldritch abomination who can be powered up by playing cultists. The rest of the Old Gods will be revealed over the course of the two month run-up to the expansion's release.

Here's a rundown of the cards that have been revealed so far:

  • The Polluted Hoarder (4 mana/4 attack/2 health): Whispers of the Olds Gods is based on the idea that the Old Gods are corrupting established creatures and making them more powerful (and also more twisted). Hence, the Loot Hoarder is now the Polluted Hoarder - essentially the same creature, but twice as powerful and twice as expensive. It essentially flips the Gnomish Inventor, switching defense for attack and making the card draw a Deathrattle instead of a Battlecry.

  • Corrupted Healbot (5 mana/6 attack/6 health): A reasonably powerful card for its slot, but balanced by the fact that it will restore eight health to an opposing hero when it dies. Priests can potentially make use of the Corrupted Healbot in conjunction with the Auchenai Soulpriest, who will turn that eight health into damage.

  • Validated Doomsayer (5 mana/0 attack/7 health): The corrupted version of the Doomsayer has a chance to be a major threat in the 5 mana slot. If he survives a turn, he will gain seven attack and become tough to remove. Granted, having no initial attack means that enemies can have a field day against him, but there is a hidden benefit - he won't immediately get sniped down by a Big Game Hunter.

  • Beckoner of Evil (2 mana/2 attack/3 health): One of the foundational cards of a C'thun deck. Playing a Beckoner of Evil card will give C'thun a +2/+2 boost whether he's in your hand, on the board, or in the deck, giving him the opportunity to become monstrously powerful. The effect only works once due it being a Battlecry, but the Beckoner of Evil's health gives it reasonable utility once its on the board. Regardless, the Beckoner of Evil will be in every C'thun deck.

  • Twilight Elder (3 mana/3 attack/4 health): Another foundational C'thun card. He will give C'thun a +1/+1 buff at the end of each turn, making him a priority target. With his four health, though, he's not all that easy to remove in the early part of the game. If the Twilight Elder is played on curve, he can remain in play for an uncomfortable long time.

  • C'thun (10 mana/6 attack 6 health): Finally, we have C'thun himself. When you play him, he will immediately distribute an amount of damage equal to that of his attack around the board. If there's nothing on the board, all of that damage will be applied to the enemy hero, which can really hurt. C'thun isn't much of a threat at 6/6; but with the aid of cultists, he has a chance to be somewhere between 14/14 and 20/20 when he comes out - a much more intimidating number. His ability to either clear the board or do massive face damage gives him immediate value; and if he manages to stick around, he can end the game pretty quickly.

A couple more interesting points about C'thun. First, owing to how dependent C'thun is on cultist cards - and vice versa - there will be no C'thun-related cards in the Arena. Second, Blizzard would like for C'thun to be the focus of multiple new deck archetypes - more than a dozen cards will interact with C'thun alone - and to facilitate experimentation, they are giving away a free C'thun card and two Beckoner of Evil cards with your first Whispers of the Old Gods pack. All players will receive three free packs at launch - free C'thun cards for everyone - and Blizzard will once again be offering a pre-order package of 50 packs for $49.99.

In addition to introducing 134 new cards, Whispers of the Old Gods will be kicking off the new Wild and Standard metagames, the latter of which will retire the Goblins vs. Gnomes and Naxxramas expansions and remove a large number of cards from play. But while we've known about these changes for a while, Whispers of the Old Gods is still a couple months out, prompting some grumbling among fans.

Asked why Blizzard is taking their time with this expansion, Brode said that an immediate release made sense for League of Explorers; but with Whispers of the Old Gods rolling out all at once, they would like time to build up anticipation for the new expansion.

The run-up to launch will begin next week with a patch that will raise the number of available deck slots to nine, a user interface overhaul, and the introduction of deck recipes - a new feature designed to help both players of all ability levels build new decks with the help of a more sophisticated "Suggest a Card" algorithm. Whisper of the Olds Gods will go live in late April/early May along with the new Standard/Wild format.

There's still a lot more to be revealed about Whispers of the Old Gods, but what's clear is that it will inaugurate a new era for _hearthstone as it ushers in the Wild/Standard metagames. The pressure is on for Blizzard to ensure that this next phase gets off to a good start.

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